Jefferson Park yesterday and today
Jefferson Park yesterday
The neighborhood of Jefferson Park started off in the 1830s when John Kinzie Clark first layed claim to the land; followed by Elijah Wentworth who built a hotel and tavern 10 miles northwest of the newly incorporated city of Chicago. As traders, hunters and farmers moved in the settlement it soon became Jefferson Township in 1850, after the first high school was built in 1870, the area was officially incorporated in 1872.
In the beginning the area was home to a large population of Russian Germans, the population grew as Poles and other Europeans settled to build a home for themselves. In the 1860's farmers of the area would move their produce into Jefferson Township and Chicago to sell to the residents, as many roads dead-ended in Jefferson this made for a successful business district. Soon Jefferson Park became known as the "Gateway to Chicago."
Abram Gale is credited for building the first 18' x 34' frame house in the area. A farm owned by the Esdohr family provided fresh water to the residents, Henry Esdohr was appointed the first postmaster and in 1881 elected as City Clerk of Jefferson. As the population of the town grew, residents petitioned for annexation to Chicago, votes were cast in favor of this action and Jefferson Township became Jefferson Park; making Chicago the nation's largest city by area.
With the population growing and being part of Chicago, new means of transportation was needed and in 1909 the first street car tracks were laid, frame cottages and brick bunglows sprung up; many of which stand even today, and by 1921 had it's first offical public park. Today Jefferson Park, operated by the Chicago Park District is composed of seven acre and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
'The Gateway to Chicago'
Jefferson Park also earned its nickname of "The Gateway to Chicago" as the Kennedy Expressway was built on its southeast border in the 1950's and with a contining of population growth the CTA opened its transit station in the 1970's. Today the area is served by the Blue Line, Greyhound bus stop and Metra.
Today the community has over 28,000 residents made of largely people of Polish decent and is home to the famous Gateway Theatre that boosted of being one of the largest theatre with it 2,000 seat, designed and built for the "talkies" in 1930 by architect Mason Rapp. Today, the theatre is now home to the Copernicus Foundation and the Polish Cultural Center.
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